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India and Sri Lanka step up parliamentary exchanges as pathway to closer people-to-people ties

Gopal Baglay, India's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, with the ministers and members of Sri Lanka's parliament in Colombo (Image courtesy: Twitter/@IndiainSL)

India and Sri Lanka are on track for closer people-to-people ties with the inauguration of the Parliamentary Friendship Association.

The establishment of the association in the 9th Parliament of Sri Lanka was done at the Lankan Parliament complex in Colombo under the patronage of Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana and in the presence of Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay on Thursday.

The meeting was attended by more than 100 Members of Parliament and included several ministers, state ministers and other senior officials of the Lankan government.

Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister G L Peiris, in his address, mentioned the close civilizational ties with India and said that the greatest gift of India to Sri Lanka was Buddhism.

The bonhomie between New Delhi and Colombo has been on full display recently.

Last month, while welcoming the Sri Lankan flight and delegation that landed at Kushinagar during the international airport's inauguration, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken about his government's special focus on the development of the places associated with Lord Buddha.

Speakers at the Colombo meeting highlighted that this was the largest number of attendees they had seen for the establishment of a Parliamentary Friendship Association, standing as a testimony to the strength of India-Sri Lanka bilateral relationship.

Chamal Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of National Security and Disaster Management and also Home Affairs was elected as the President of the association. 

The Indian High Commissioner expressed confidence that the establishment of the association would reinvigorate parliamentary exchanges and interactions between the two democracies and would also strengthen the multi-faceted bilateral relationship.

He highlighted six areas of cooperation, including sharing of democratic values, combating common challenges, enhancing people-to-people connectivity, encouraging greater economic engagement, strengthening the cultural connect and sharing the fruits of development partnership.

On November 8, in the Padma awards investiture ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi, two individuals from Sri Lanka were conferred with the Padma Shri award by India.

Vajira Chitrasena was honoured for her achievements in the field of art and Indra Dassanayake (posthumous) for her contributions in the field of literature and education.

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